Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Treasures and Thugs

I guess beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

Yesterday my desktop tossed up a story by the Wall Street Journal about "Garden Thugs". Some of them I've never grown or even seen, but I found I own seven(!) of the purported thugs and I can't say that I've had trouble with any of them. Ever.

Maybe it's because I live in a rigorous climate. More likely it's because I'm a gardener to my fingertips (literally). My hands are my second favorite gardening tool, right behind my most useful gadget, two observant eyes. True gardeners are the hardest-hearted folks in the world--we pinch, pull, transplant, cut down and poison ruthlessly.

I paid a small fortune for my cerise-colored bee balm so I was naturally thrilled to learn I planted a hellacious spreader.
I'm forewarned so I'll keep an eye on it, but at this point I just hope it survives since I managed to kill a previous attempt.  I bought it to attract hummingbirds and I hope they discover it soon.

Among the seven alleged baddies is one of my favorites, sweet woodruff. I love its fingered leaves and delicate bitty white blossoms. I actually like the way it spreads and it's never ever been hard to discourage from any given area.

I might not grow Dame's Rocket if I lived adjacent to wildlands where it could spread, but in my cottage garden (with an eagle eye out for stray seedlings) it's a well-mannered purple addition to my spring flowers.

My honeysuckle is always happy to be trained and trellised.  It's sheltered many bird nests over the years as well as entertained little girls who've learned to extract that precious drop of nectar.  I keep after the stray tendrils, of course, but that's not a hardship.

I'm hoping that my small-leaved English ivy eventually does grow enough to let me create a faux gate, sort of a Secret Garden look.  I'm wondering how to get it to climb a wood fence.  Meanwhile it's one of the few things that have survived a dry area patrolled by eight active dog paws and I think it looks a whole lot nicer than dirt.  I didn't have any trouble getting rid of it in Southern California when I inherited a plant, so it should be a lot easier here in Nevada if it forgets who's boss.

Trumpet vine is on the no-no list too.  Ha! Apparently they've never let chickens loose near one--mine is barely hanging on despite frequent watering and protective armour.  Of course, mine is still a youngster but should it survive my hungry flock and eventually flourish I'll have to protect it from our harsher winters which have a way of eliminating even mature vines. 

I'm keeping my silver maple small--I don't want too much shade in the yard, I just want a little separation from my neighbor's porch light.
So far it's taken my pruning in stride and is just the size I want it to be.

Meanwhile I'm wondering why periwinkle (my official number one bad guy) didn't make the list or feverfew which certainly seeds as readily as Dame's Rocket although it pulls easily or elm seedlings (officially dubbed "weed trees" around the cottage for their ugly growth and difficulty to eliminate) or my evil white violets
which obviously spread rapidly as soon as my back is turned. Or lawn grass, for heaven's sake, which always seems to be on a mission to grow into my flowerbeds. I seem to have my own, completely different, list of garden thugs than the Wall Street Journal.  You might too.

Maybe compiling a national list is hubris since each zone is bound to have it's own villains and winners.

And I suspect that anyone with a kind heart will struggle with strong-willed plants.  A gardener, like a parent or a dog custodian, has to set and enforce limits.  A little tough love now goes a long ways to keeping the peace in the future.

Going after my own bad guys and joining in the Tuesday Garden Party a just day late (yikes),


  1. Just goes to show that some "bullies" can be tamed! ;-)

  2. I too love seet woodruff and have never had a problem "channeling its energy"... I think you are correct about zones and what will do what where.

    I had feverfew once and ugh!! what a time I had trying to contain it... and the violets, mine was purple, never again:)

  3. oooh the violets... I have a violet conquest going on here too. They creep silently up on me during the night i think, and take over. I'm sure they could survive a nuclear winter with the cockroaches!
    Happy gardening.

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  5. Oh I'm with you here- I can't even grow bee balm, let alone get it to reseed. I love Dame's Rocket, sweet woodruff (grows in dry shade where nothing else will), and feverfew.

    Now violets- they are purple, but they are the bane of my gardening existence! Awful!!

    Thanks for this interesting link to the TGP.

  6. Oh I hear you! I have a love/hate relationship with some of my plants. Some I've had to show the door...or gate, if you will. I have one more small patch of those darn orange lilies to eradicate in another area of my garden!

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